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----Original Author: [[Tom Hull|TomHull]]
 
  
 
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Revision as of 10:21, 19 March 2009

Capitalization Standard for English

In English

All words in a title should have their first letter capitalized and following letters lower case except as noted below:

  • (1) Always capitalize the first and last word of a title. This rule should be followed even if the words would normally be lowercase according to the other rules. If a title is broken up by major punctuation (colon according to the SubTitleStyle, question mark, exclamation mark, em-dash, parentheses, or quotes), capitalize each distinct piece of the title as if it were a distinct title. Therefore, for example, always capitalize the first and last words of each section.
  • (2) Between the first and last word of a title Capitalize all words except:
    • (a) Articles: a, an, the
    • (b) Coordinate conjunctions: and, but, or, nor
    • (c) Short prepositions (three letters or less): as, at, by, for, in, of, on, to, but, cum, mid, off, per, qua, re, up, via -- except when used as adverbs or as an inseparable part of a verb
    • (d) When used to form an infinitive: to
  • (3) In compounds formed by hyphens, capitalize each part exactly as if they were a separate word.
  • (4) Capitalize contractions and slang consistent with the rules above to the extent that such clearly apply. For example, do not capitalize o' for "of", 'n' or n' for "and".

However, for releases by JapaneseArtists that contain track names in English see the CapitalizationStandard/JapaneseReleasesClarification.

Rationale

I've tried to come up with a simplified rule set that does not generally require in-depth understanding of English grammar, but produces reasonably correct results in almost all cases. The 3/4 letter preposition size limit is used by (I think) most U.S. publishers.

The trickiest part is (2c). Cutting the preposition size down limits the number of exceptional cases. The 3/4 letter split is a rough guideline. I have omitted prepositions like "up" and "out" because they are so infrequently used as prepositions that it's much simpler (and not terribly wrong) to always capitalize them; on the other hand, such 4-letter words as "from", "into", "onto", and "with" are common and almost always used as prepositions, so there is a rather good case for including them. I personally prefer to lowercase these four, but feel it would be easier (and not terribly wrong) to always uppercase them.)

To help determine if a short preposition (2c) is being used as an adverb, check if it's modifying a noun or not. For example, "Dog in Eternity": "in" creates the phrase "in Eternity", "Eternity" is a noun, so "in" is a preposition- vs "Logged In Eternally": "in" is part of the phrase "Logged In", "Logged" is not a noun, so "in" is an adverb.

  • Actually in that example, "in" is part of the verb phrase "logged in", not an adverb. "Logged Eternally" would mean something entirely different. Otherwise you're right, though.

I've also omitted "so" from the list: while it is sometimes used as a conjunction, it is overwhelmingly used as an adverb, so the same rationale applies as with "up" and "out".

I am hard pressed to explain "as" and "by" except by grammar rules: both are used as conjunctions (lc), prepositions (lc), and adverbs (ulc); although lc uses predominate, they are not overwhelming.

Not capitalizing "to" in infinitives, which is common but not universal practice, puts it overwhelmingly in the lc camp.

The bottom line here is that we have a list of 15 words (I may have missed a couple more, what are they?) that are not capitalized in most or all cases. We could probably illustrate that list in a second file, as well as build up a deeper list of exceptions and special cases. If we have more examples, we may be able to better formulate the rules.

Explanations and Exceptions

The following addenda are still part of this guideline.

Examples for Exceptions in (2)(c)

What about parts of titles that are put in parentheses but continue the main title?

  • Those are capitalized as if the parentheses do not exist. Mostly. Examples: * "Have You Ever Been (to Electric Ladyland)" by Jimi Hendrix track link * "What Went Wrong (in Your Head)" by Supergrass track link * "(I Don't Want to Go to) Chelsea" by Elvis Costello track link Counter examples: * "(Don't Fear) The Reaper" by Blue Öyster Cult track link ("(Don't Fear)" could be considered optional, so "The" should be capitalised as though it were at the start of the sentence) * "1983... (A Merman I Should Turn to Be)" by Jimi Hendrix track link (Anything after the ... is a new sentence, so the "A" should be capitalised).
    • - probably a bad example because it contradicts "Bring Your Daughter... to the Slaughter" by Iron Maiden (track link) - the reason for the caps above is that it does not continue the sentence. -- Shepard 15:32, 09 July 2006 (UTC)
    * "Ramp! (The Logical Song)" by Scooter link to single (Same reason as above: everything after the ! is a new sentence). 
    * "Fly Me to the Moon (In Other Words)" titled like that in the version sung by Julie London track link (This is not a continued sentence but two unrelated parts which occur at different places in the lyrics). 
    

Discussion

The comments in this section are opinions of single users or open questions and as this not official.

"(Don't Fear) The Reaper" example: I have to disagree with this one. (Don't Fear) is a parenthetical thought, not an optional substring. "(Don't Fear) the Reaper" seems more correct. -- BrianSchweitzer 21:32, 05 March 2009 (UTC)

What about when the first letter of a title is dropped via an apostrophe?

  • e.g. " 'Cross the Breeze" --http://musicbrainz.org/track/34bf79db-eeca-4f23-ad11-b6be2203c2f4.html. It looks somehow wrong capitalized, but that seems to fit with the current rules. --Gecks
    • Yeah, some comments from others on this would be nice.. I also often see "'Em". Unsure about this. --Shepard
      • The rule seems to be that by default, all words are capitalised unless they belong to a small group of exceptions. By this logic, shortened words that would normally be capitalised should be capitalised, even if they look wrong. But then that raises another potential problem: What if after shortening, a word falls into the exceptional category? eg. "Though" -> "tho'" --MichelleW
        • An attempt was made on the style ml to clarify the question (starting from a practical case, 'Round About Midnight). This never went to RFV, but it seem latest opinions were: "capitalize" the first letter. -- dmppanda 19:47, 02 February 2007 (UTC)

AKA, aka, A/K/A, a/k/a/, A.K.A., a.k.a.

As far as I can tell, in connection with development of the GuessCase script, folks have decided that a.k.a. is how the abbreviation for "also known as" should be written in MB. See this ticket: 2967. As of today, GuessCase still has a bug that (at least sometimes) writes A.K.A., not a.k.a. Because GuessCase is not reliable on this, and because some folks might not use GuessCase, the style guide should say:

  • The abbreviation for "also known as" should be written a.k.a.

(Note that if I were coming up with my own rule from scratch, I would not use periods. But it appears that a decision has already been made.) — Editor:bhagerty 2009-03-14

What about the word 'yet'?

  • A coordinate conjunction not listed is "yet" and it's also left uppercase by the "guess case" function. Should it not be lowercase? --ChristopherPrice
    • It's more commonly used in song titles as an adverb (i.e. Uppercase) to indicate a period of time. e.g. "It's Not Over Yet", but it can be used as a conjunction meaning "however", "nevertheless" or "in spite of" - e.g. "So Near, yet so Far", for which I would use lower case. See http://www.wordwebonline.com/en/YET --ArtySmokes

How do we capitalize titles starting with dots?

  • Example: "...and Justice for All" by Metallica (and this is how I would do it, the "and" is not the beginning of the title). --Shepard
    • But by the rules above, "Anything after the ... is a new sentence", and "and" is the first word of a title. (I don't really have an opinion on this, though.) --MichelleW I always thought that a 3dot elipsis meant something was missing, and that to say that something was missing at the end of a sentence required a 4dot elipsis. So I'd say "...and Justice for All" or ".... And Justice for All" --Hickling
      • There is no such thing (in normal English, at least) as a four dot ellipsis. The thing you remember is (1) a full-stop at the end of the sentence, followed by (2) an ellipsis (three points). So you'll only see four consecutive points if something is missing after the previous sentence is finished. If there are four points at the end, there is no space between the first and the sentece (because there's no space before the full-stop, in general). Whether or not there are spaces between the others, that's a style issue. Also, whether or not there is a space between an ellipsis and the surrounding text, I see this as related; since we don't use spaces inside an ellipsis, I suggest we keep it connected to the preceeding text (or following, if there's nothing before, as in this example). Otherwise, we'd get to ugly things like: "A nine words-long sentence followed by an ellipsis. ..."
        • I would imagine that the style used by the artist would determine if it is capitalized or not. Inaddition, I believe the statement "Anything after ... is a new sentence" to be incorrect, one must look at the source. If the word that followed the ellipse in its original contect is the beginning of a sentence then it should be capitalized, but if it was in the middle of a sentence then it should not be capitalized. By the way "ellipsis" is a plural form of "ellipse", and is incorrectly used in the two comments above.--Rooster22
          • An ellipse is an oval. An ellipsis is a mark or series of marks indicating an omission, and ellipses is the plural of ellipsis. --Nikki
            • Yes, thanks for correcting me, it was correct the way that ellipsis was used above. Just checked and ellipses is the plural of ellipse and ellipsis.--Rooster22

'via'

Capitalise or not? My gut says no, but my gut says a lot of things... --Gecks

  • My dictionary says it's a preposition. It's only three letters long. Therefore, the guidelines appear to agree with your gut :) --MichelleW

"short", "middle length" and "long" conjunctions

Short - We list several short ones, but not all of them. The missing standard English ones are: but, cum, mid, off, per, qua, re, up, via - lower or uppercase? Notwithstanding MichelleW's comment above, the list in 1(c) seems to be a definitive list, not a partial list (at least as we currently word it). (Moved to the list now.)

Middle Length - we currently define only short or long, 3 +/-, however most of the English guidelines indicate 5, not 3, as the cutoff. This would then include:

  • (4 characters): amid, anti, atop, down, from, into, like, near, next, onto, over, past, plus, sans, save, than, till, unto, upon, with
  • (5 characters): about, above, after, along, among, anent, below, circa, minus, round, since, times, under, until

Long length - Not that I think these ought to be made lowercase, but in case it's useful to list somewhere on here, here's the rest of the single-word conjunctions in English that are 6+ characters, in case anyone thinks any of these should be still made lowercase:

  • (6) aboard, absent, across, amidst, around, aslant, before, behind, beside, beyond, during, except, inside, toward, unlike, versus, within
  • (7) against, amongst, astride, barring, beneath, besides, between, betwixt, despite, failing, outside, through, towards, without
  • (8) opposite
  • (9) alongside, following, regarding, vis-à-vis
  • (10) throughout, underneath
  • (15) notwithstanding

-- BrianSchweitzer 00:16, 28 August 2007 (UTC)

Prepositions / adverbs

The rules around "prepositions as adverbs" is still very confusing - and it doesn't help that the example used in the rationale is actually a phrasal verb. :) But seriously, I don't believe that a preposition can be used as an adverb. Now, one can be used to start an adverbial phrase, but it seems silly to make the adjective/adverb distinction here. For example: "He Left in a Car" vs. "He Left In a Hurry". Is this really what you want? --dkg

  • A preposition *can* be used as an adverb (and commonly is), but it usually "looks wrong" if capitalised in the middle of a title. Along these lines is the apparent contradiction in the way GUESS CASE treats "In" and "Out". Changing "In" to "in" makes sense to me, but GC but doesn't change "Out" to "out". Unless I've missed something (quite likely), "in" and "out" are equal and opposite, so their cases should be covered by the same rules. "Turn on, Tune in, Cop Out" (by Freak Power) - as suggested by the Guess Case button - is an example of the contradiction. --ArtySmokes
    • Here "Out" is the last word though and therefore never lowercased. -- Shepard 04:42, 21 June 2007 (UTC) Ah, yes. I said I was missing something. :) I'll see if I can find an example where "out" is capitalised (possibly incorrectly) in the middle of a title. Meanwhile I need to fix the Freak Power track, as I think it currently has "in" lowercased. -- ArtySmokes "Cop out" is actually a phrasal verb, so "out" should be capitalized even in the middle of the title! :) Can you give me an example of using a preposition as an adverb? --dkg
      • Separating Adverb from Prepositions has a good list of examples, with a short explanation. Also, I'm definitely no expert on phrasal verbs, but I think you may be incorrect - sortof. "Cop out" can be a phrasal verb ("...but when his turn came, he copped out."), but in more standard useage, "cop" is acting as a noun, not a verb ("a cop", not just "cop" or "copped"), thus making most standard usages of "cop out" not phrasal verbs, but rather, compound nouns. In any case, though, I think this type of thing is simply too complex and context-based to be dealt with easily by code additions to GC. I would, though, like to see the restraints on some of the currently lowercase items relaxed a bit - "out", "but", and a few other words that currently are forced to be lowercase by the guidelines - I agree do look very odd in most contexts. I'd personally be happier if a distinction (or exception?) was allowed depending upon if these words appear as part of a phrase ("If You Are But a Dream") or as 'phrase joiners' ("Sad but True"). Rereading the guidelines, I note we actually already have at least one such example, in the word "to". Just looking through ten thousand or so tracks in my collection in which the word appears (and where GC w/o modification was applied to each release), I notice that GC often assumes rule 2(d) above for the word "to", rather than using 2(c) when 2(d) doesn't apply, meaning that we actually have at least a few thousands of occurrences of the word "to" incorrectly capitalized in the database, where it is used in the propositional sense, and not the infinitive. -- BrianSchweitzer 06:33, 28 September 2007 (UTC) "Cop" is usually a noun, meaning policeman, and "cop out" can be a noun, e.g. "That was a cop out", but in the song title above it is clearly part of a phrasal verb, "to cop out". Having said that, I'd prefer prepositions used in phrasal verbs to remain in lower case, just like "to" is. I've never liked seeing "to" capitalised anywhere but as the first word of a title, whether it is part of the verb infinitive or not. I'd prefer if other short words used with verbs were also always put in lowercase and the exception in 2c was removed. -- ArtySmokes I don't agree. I feel it looks very wrong to have 2c words lower-cased. The link was very helpful, BrianSchweitzer, but I'm still having trouble thinking of any examples involving the *specific* words excepted in 2c. ArtySmokes, can you point me to an example where "to" is capitalized (while following the rules)? -- dkg "To" is rarely capitalized. My point is that the other prepositions should follow the same pattern. The part of 2c that reads "except when used as adverbs or as an inseparable part of a verb" seems to add confusion. I guess it's personal choice, but I don't think the usage of the word should dictate the case; just have them all in the same case (lower is my preference) whatever their role. --ArtySmokes

'And' in brackets

"It's the End of the World as We Know It (and I Feel Fine)" is correct, but the Guess Case button currently changes the 'A' of "and" to a capital. If the brackets came before the main title, or "And" followed an ellipsis, the capital 'A' would seem fine, but I doubt there are many/any examples of a track where "And" appears as a separate sentence in brackets after the main title. Could the GC function be altered accordingly? -- ArtySmokes

  • As per the 1), a title split up in multiple parts by major punctuation (eg bracket), then it's a separate title and needs to have a capital letter for the each part. It's only when the brackets are splitting part of the same sentence that you keep a leading 'and' in lower case. Since you can have a sentence that starts with "And" I suppose it's impossible for a script to decide, though I guess it's at least more likely that a bracket with an 'and' after it, then it's the same sentence, so you're probably right! -- Gecks
    • The last time I suggested something like that, I was told that it was "guess case", not "fix case"... I think the number of such instances I've seen is a bit too varied to really be done correctly by a script without even futher having it do capitalization in parenthesis incorrectly: (Main Title) --> (main Title) being the one I see most frequently under the current guess case. (And, (But, (In Which Case, (So, (An, (Or - I can just think of far too many examples of this for us really to catch them all without also having guess case incorrectly de-capitalize words in the paren that really should be capitalized. -- BrianSchweitzer 22:28, 24 August 2007 (UTC)
      • Oh yes, Gecks, in case I'm reading your confusion correctly, Arty' correctly referring to Exception 2, which overrides 1). -- BrianSchweitzer 22:30, 24 August 2007 (UTC)
        • Hehe, no I'm afraid the confusions seems to be have been adopted by yourself :) Exception 1 states that phrases in brackets are treated as separate titles, so the first word in a bracket is always first-char-capitalized, UNLESS the phrase in brackets is a continuation of the main title phrase. Eg: "Hello (and Goodnight)". -- Gecks
        How does the Guess Case script currently decide what to do with stuff in brackets? It seems to me that it always puts any of the prepositions/conjunctions into upper case if they are the first word in brackets. Try, for example, "It's the End of the World (as We Know it)". I can understand the fix being applied to the first overall word in the title, but don't brackets normally come *after* the MainTitle? I suppose the Guess Case script would have to be too complex to spot if there are other characters that appear before the brackets. I guess I'll just have to be extra vigilant with titles containing brackets and prepositions. -- ArtySmokes

"What about parts of titles that are put in parentheses but continue the main title?" subsection

This subsection is not an exception, nor solely an explaination, as I see it. Rather, it sets up a separate capitalization guideline. However, it is separated from the other 4 rules, so easier to miss, and unnumbered, so more difficult to easily reference by rule number ("See capitalization rule 3 in CapsStdEng" vs "See the 'What about parts of titles that are put in parentheses but continue the main title?' subsection under 'Exceptions and Explainations' in CapsStdEng"). I'd suggest that rule (for it is one; as far as I can see, it isn't simply an evolution from the extant 4 rules) be numbered rule #5, and that subsection be relocated into place with the other 4 rules. -- BrianSchweitzer 06:43, 28 September 2007 (UTC)

Why the exceptions

I find the exceptions for some words rather strange. I have only seen 3 types being used: - Put all words completly in upper case - Put the first letter of every word in upper case, no exceptions for some words as used here - Use "normal" English grammar rules, which would mean that for most titles it would only be the first letter of the title would be an upper case letter. Exceptions would be things like names of persons.

The 3rd option seems to be used for most of the other languages, and I have to wonder why English is so different.

Can someone point me to some other place that also uses the current way? -- kroeckx

  • This is indeed not an invention of MusicBrainz. Varying capitalisation like that is used in all sorts of places, like book titles, section headings in articles, ... Just browse around a bit on Amazon.com and you'll see. :-) CDs as well do it all the time. There is however no standard for this. Since MusicBrainz wants to keep things consistent people had to come up with a standard definition. -- Shepard 23:22, 19 July 2008 (UTC)

Word "with"

What about word with?dayslypper

The word with is not capitalized in a title in proper English grammar. gzl5ry

OK, I added "with" to (2)(b) if it isn't correct then you can sort it better. This word is missed in rules.dayslypper

  • I reverted the change. MB never used to put "with" lower case so this needs to be discussed first before making a change to the guideline. I think the reason is the length of the word. Also note that there are no grammar rules for title capitalisation in English really. The database currently has 4885 track titles with "with" and 44614 with "With". GuessCase will capitalise it. -- Shepard 14:26, 08 December 2008 (UTC)
    • "With" is a preposition, also. Not a conjunction. I guess the reason it's excluded is because it's not a "short" preposition (3 letters or less) though personally I think I would probably expect it to be lowercase (although most {all?} of the other 4 letter propositions seem to look more natural in upper case for titles). So yeah, I personally would support it being lowercase but I guess it's personal preference :) Gecks